Protecting The Innocent: Child Abuse Series Part Three 7.9.2021
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -Community stakeholders throughout Maine are calling for systemic change and more accountability to protect children from what they call a broken child welfare system. Concluding her series, Shawn Cunningham reports on the bureacracy and what needs to happen to create a systemic change and protect more children from abuse.
In the past two days since airing this series, viewer comments have trickled in voicing frustration with the Department of Health and Human Services. One viewer wrote “THERE NEEDS TO BE SYSTEMIC CHANGE WITHIN DHHS DEPARTMENT...They went onto say “A PARENT CAN REFUSE A DRUG TEST AVOID ANSWERING THEIR PHONE OR ANSWERING THEIR DOOR WHEN THEY KNOW A CASEWORKER IS TRYING TO CONTACT THEM.”
In the past few years, state lawmakers approved funding to hire more child welfare caseworkers, supervisors and case aides...an after effect of the killings of 4-year-old Kendall Chick and 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy. Despite the added staff and manpower, some lawmakers say the problems with DHHS are far from fixed.
Sen. Bill Diamond (D) Maine State Senator
“I want the department to admit the system is broken and let’s fix it together that’s all I’m asking but they won’t admit that its broken until they do we’re not gonna be able to change.”
Sen. Trey Stewart (R) Maine State Senator
“the problem is from my vantage point they’re trying to do too many things in too many different areas to really be effective at this particular one but this is one where if you fail there are dire consequences.”
Shawn Cunningham NO STANDUP
But clearly some cases are slipping through the cracks. Diamond authored a bill and Stewart signed on board with it...to make changes within DHHS. But in the final vote wise...NO GO.
" it did pass in the Senate by a huge vote but when it got down in the House the department worked very hard to kill that bill...they continually stonewall anyone trying to get in and try to help and I don’t understand that for one minute they’ve heard from experts what their problems are and time and time again they seem to either ignore them or just don’t implement them.”
DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says “Their goal is to look broadly, not just at child welfare, but at our public health and health systems to find out if there are any patterns or practices that we should change as soon as possible,” Still the department DID ADD 130 more staff to its Office of Child and Family Services between January 2019 and February last year. To that Diamond says...
“you just can’t hire people and put them in you need training and more than that they need a supervisory program that works.”
“we’ve had death after death after death of these kids and each time the department says they’re gonna fix the problem and its very frustrating...”
Shawn Cunningham, NS 8.
Some community resources in Aroostook County are:
Aroostook Council for Healthy Families www.aroostookcouncilforhealthyfamilies.net 877-207-2300
Hope & Justice Project https://www.hopeandjusticeproject.org/ 1-800-439-2323
Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office (207) 532-3471
Aroostook Children Advocacy Center https://www.amhcsas.org/aroostook-cac.html 207-472-6134
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